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First, consider whether counselling can help the student. Counselling helps people make their own decisions about their life and behaviour, and manage their feelings. It is not about giving advice or information.
Many University staff provide supportive or pastoral care of great value. This may be sufficient for the student. But if you are wondering if it the student needs professional help, read on...
If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the following questions, then referral is likely to be a better option than continuing to try to help the student yourself:
If you are unsure whether or not to refer a student, or simply need to talk through your concerns, you are very welcome to discuss the situation with one of the counsellors. You can do this without mentioning the student's name. You can also contact the Student Welfare team if you have serious concerns about a student’s welfare or behaviour and you want to talk them through.
It may be clear from the outset that you can do little to help the student, and need to refer them straight away.
If you have been working with a student for some time, referring them on can be more complex. You need to explain why you are suggesting that they seek help elsewhere, so they do not feel that you are rejecting them. Be clear whether you are going to continue to offer support or not, and what the limitations of that support will be.
When you are considering a referral:
Counsellors are authorised by the University to write Counselling Notes or “medical certificate equivalents” in support of students who are experiencing personal difficulties which may affect their work. A student may include a Counselling Note when submitting a “Request following Mitigating Circumstances”. Where a counsellor has been working with a student for some time, the counsellor is in a position to judge whether it would be appropriate for them to write a Note.
However, if students are referred to the Counselling Service with a view to obtaining a Note to include in a “Request following Mitigating Circumstances,” this presents a dilemma. The counsellor does not know the student or their academic record. Without prior contact, they are unlikely to be able to assess how the student's personal difficulties are affecting their work, or has affected it in the past. If there are possible medical circumstances, it might be better to refer a student to their doctor (for example, if the student may have depressive or anxiety issues). Of course, you can still refer the student to the Counselling Service for personal help, if this is appropriate and what the student wants.
For further information, see: